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Rapid growth and interest in halal food has captured significant attention across the food industry. According to the World Halal Forum, the global halal food and beverage trade is currently estimated to be around ca. USD 1.4 trillion annually (Farouk, 2013). It has been reported that the global halal market is currently worth 16% of the entire global food industry and would account for 20% of the global food product trade in the near future with Asia, Africa and Europe accounting for 63%, 24% and 10% respectively (in der Spiegel et al., 2012).

A growing Muslim population as well as growing economic development and disposable income in Muslim countries are the main drivers behind the halal growth (in Farouk, 2013). Worldwide, the number of Muslims has been calculated as 1.62 billion, representing 23.4% of an estimated 2010 world population of 6.9 billion. Europe’s Muslim population is currently estimated at 44.1 million, ca. 2.7% of its total population growing at a rate of 1.8% per year (in van der Spiegel et al., 2012).

Numerous survey-type studies have shown that 75% of Muslims living in the US and 84% of Muslims in France always eat halal meat. Apart from the religious value, consumer motives behind halal food arise from some general guidelines in Islam: to preserve life, to safeguard future generations and to maintain self respect and integrity. Health, respect for animal welfare and a degree of acculturation have also been noted as important drivers (in Bonne and Verbeke, 2008).

Need for Standardisation

Muslim consumers increasingly desire and demand the adoption of a quality assurance approach that guarantees the halal process standards. Such an approach would require a formal certification and labelling strategy to reassure consumers of the quality and authenticity of halal meat whilst improving shopping convenience and choice. Halal certification is not yet globally standardised but its need is internationally recognised. Apart from its religious significance and its ‘seal of quality’ perception amongst consumers, halal certification provides reliable and independent authentication, a means of claim substantiation. ‘Authentic halal’ is a cause of controversy amongst certifying bodies and Muslim countries, as halal is widely defined by the choice and effectiveness of stunning methods used in animal slaughter.

Challenging Process

Halal is a process associated with religious belief and as such it would be difficult to control and guarantee. From the consumer point of view, it is difficult to evaluate and verify even after consuming the product. Therefore, consumers have to largely rely on the seller and/or trust the information provided on the product label to guide their purchase. In the case of halal, such a trust on product label would be all about the halal process attributes including handling and safety. The latter has been linked with the effectiveness of the slaughtering process leading to complete animal bleed out therefore ensuring that blood, a potential source of bacterial contamination is removed, resulting in healthier meat.

The concept of halal certification was initiated in the United States in the mid 1960s by Muslim food and technical experts as a necessary safety measure for Muslims living in a non-Muslim society, with the aim to preserve their Muslim identity and fulfil their religious obligations. The halal quality standard was originally designed to encompass product supply and manufacturing of processed food, cosmetics, pharmaceutical and medical products. However, it has gradually been extended to cover services involved in halal product logistics. The halal concept is no longer confined to food or other products, but also covers the process of handling, packaging, storage, transportation and delivery. Halal certification is considered to be the prerequisite for entering the global halal market, helping companies meet local requirements, expand their marketplace and increase their sales and revenue (Mathew et al., 2014; Noordin et al., 2014).

EU Legal Background

According to EU legislation (EC/93/119, and EC/1099/2009 that came to effect on 1 January 2013) stunning before slaughtering is a mandatory requirement in Europe and is performed to ensure that the animals are unconscious, ensuring slaughter doesn’t cause them anxiety, pain, suffering and distress. This legislation has caused significant dispute amongst Muslims, as there is the concern that stunning could kill animals prior to slaughter. In many EU countries, religious slaughter is exempt from stunning, in line with the religious freedoms granted by Article 9 of the EU Convention on Human Rights. Hence, slaughter without stunning is carried out in licensed slaughterhouses or during religious festivals to ensure that the animal is healthy and has suffered no injury prior to slaughter. This conflict is guided and affected by the different perceptions of what constitutes ‘authentic halal’. In turn, this prevents the development of a global halal standard and hinders harmonisation. For example, the Malaysian standard that initially identified stunning as “not recommended” was revised in 2009, to include a reference to pre-slaughter stunning under certain conditions. Despite the differences, both approaches have been embraced by major UK retailers who sell meat from both pre-stunned and non-stunned animals in an attempt to respond to their customers’ beliefs.

Selecting the Right Halal Certification

It is estimated that there are currently around 122 active halal certification bodies around the world, including local government departments that have taken charge of halal certification in countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines. Some of those certification bodies are non-profit organisations, government agencies and private for-profit businesses as well as some private individuals. Self-certification has also been reported, in which case some groups and individuals have resorted to certifying their own products. Apart from credibility, recognition and acceptance by importing countries (e.g. Malaysia, Indonesia, UAE, etc) Chaudry and Riaz, (2014) identified the important criteria in the selection of a halal scheme and halal certification body as follows:

  1. Resource availability: responsiveness in handling paperwork; providing Muslim inspectors at the plants on a timely basis; and in doing routine inspections at a defined frequency during the year
  2. Willingness to work with the company on problem solving
  3. Ability to clearly explain their halal standards and their fee structure
  4. Whether or not an agency’s halal standards meet the company’s needs in the marketplace; meaning the acceptability among the consumers and importers

How SGS Can Help

As a leading provider of certification, verification, inspection and testing with a global reach, we are happy to discuss your halal certification, training or other requirement anywhere in the world. SGS is working in partnership with the Halal Authority Board (HAB), a European based halal certification organisation, to offer this industry the opportunity to penetrate the global halal market by taking advantage of a uniquely positioned, globally applicable and transparent halal supply chain certification standard, that can help the industry meet the demand for authentic, safe and affordable halal food. SGS’ halal audit, certification and training services are based on the HAB’s halal standard: the first globally accessible, geographically neutral, transparent and systematic standard for the whole halal food supply chain, designed to offer a strategic and practical approach that can be easily implemented and integrated into your existing Food Safety Management System (FSMS).
 
For further information, please contact:

Dr. Evangelia Komitopoulou
Global Technical Manager – Food
t: +44 (0)7824 089985

References

Bonne, K., and Verbeke, W. (2088) Muslim consumer trust in halal meat status and control in Belgium, Meat Science, 79, 113-123.
 
Chaudry, M.M., and Riaz, M.N. (2014) Halal Food Requirements, Safety of Food and Beverages, 3, 486-491.
 
Farouk, M.M. (2013) Advances in the industrial production of halal and kosher red meat. Meat Science, 95, 805-820.
 
Halal Focus (10/12/2012) UAE kicks off halal standardisation worldwide.

Mathew, V.N., Ardiana Mazwa Raudah binti Amir Abdullah, and Siti Nurazizah binti Mohamad Ismail (2014) Acceptance on Halal Food among Non-Muslim Consumers, Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 121, 262- 271.
 
Noordin,N., Nor Laila Md Noor, and Samicho, Z. (2014) Strategic Approach to Halal Certification System: An Ecosystem Perspective, Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 121, 79- 95.

Van der Spiegel, M., van der Fels-Klerx, H.J., Sterrenburg, P., van Ruth, S.M., Scholtens-Toma, I.M.J. and Kok, E.J. (2012) Halal assurance in food supply chains: Verification of hala certificates using audits and laboratory analysis, Trends in Food Science & Technology, 27, 109-119.